Sudan's president agreed Friday to release a Pulitzer Prize-winning American journalist and two Chadians jailed on charges of espionage after meeting with a US governor, a spokesman for the governor said.
Gov. Bill Richardson of New Mexico secured the release of Chicago Tribune journalist Paul Salopek, his driver and interpreter on humanitarian grounds after meeting with President Omar al-Bashir at the president's palace soon after the governor arrived in Khartoum, said Richardson's spokesman Pahl Shipley.
Richardson was scheduled on Saturday to pick up Salopek and his colleagues, who were in custody in the war-torn region of Darfur. The Sudanese government confirmed the release but did not provide additional comment.
"I emphasized to the President that releasing these men was the right thing to do because Paul Salopek is not a spy, he is my constituent and a respected journalist who was attempting to do his job telling the story of the people, culture and history of the sub-Saharan region known as the Sahel," Richardson said in a written statement.
Salopek, who has a home in New Mexico, was on assignment for National Geographic Magazine when he was arrested last month and charged with espionage, passing information illegally, writing "false news" and entering the African country without a visa. His trial was set to resume Sunday before a judge in the North Darfur capital of el-Fasher.